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What to Cut- Military Edition

By Taylor Marvin

If you accept the necessity of American defense cuts to balance the federal budget, the next question is what services should see the most and the least budget reductions. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot but really aren’t informed about to come to a well-reasoned conclusion. My gut feeling is that the Army and the Air Force should see the majority of budget cuts. Why? For the Army- the United States faces close to zero prospects for a future conventional ground war and after the trauma of Iraq and Afghanistan we probably won’t be looking to get into another long counterinsurgency nation-building campaign anytime soon. Of course I could be wrong: Vietnam and Somalia certainly were traumatic, but that didn’t stop the United States from stumbling into a counterinsurgency campaign in some form about twice a decade for the last 20 years. The Air Force also seems ripe for cost-effective cuts. It really has no major domestic air defense mission in the modern world, and with its dependence on large foreign bases is less flexible than naval aviation. However, I tend to think that the Air Force’s strategic airlift mission is important, particularly for humanitarian missions, and should be preserved. The Navy seems to be the most important current arm of American power. It’s the most flexible, and America’s future rivalry with China, our most realistic future near-peer competitor, will be a maritime competition. Our best responses to potential threats like Iran and North Korea are mostly naval assets, and the Navy offers a needed, if often overhyped, capacity to protect the world’s shipping lanes. The Marines are a tougher question- many observers are right to question the value of a service the does much the same thing as the nation’s dedicated air, sea, and land services at a smaller scale. However, I tend to think that an expeditionary force is a valuable tool, one that the Navy and Army can’t match alone. The Marines should lose some of their dedicated weapons- I think a gradual shift away from Marine aviation wouldn’t greatly hurt US capabilities and would be real savings.

However, this is an issue I’m really not too sure about. There are a lot of smart people out there- what do you think? What services do you think provide the greatest cost-benefit to US security, and what programs would you cut?

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Daniel #

    Marine aviation provides a focus on CAS that is lacking in the Navy and Air Force, and having to rely on Naval aviation would hamstring the qualities that make the Marine Air-Ground Task Forces such effective projections of military power.

    Any observers that feel the Marines are simply a smaller scale Navy and Army are welcome to compare a Marine operation to a Navy/Army exercise, or barring that, just sit a couple Marines next to a couple Soldiers/Sailors and observe the differences in training and attitudes.

    March 5, 2011
  2. admin #

    I think there’s a lot to your point. The Air Force has traditionally shied away from the CAS role, as has the Navy to a smaller extent. Marine aviation’s core mission is CAS, and its integration with ground forces have historically permitted much more effective air support. However, that’s part of the potential problem with the F-35B- its survivability issues, lack of endurance, and complexity suggest a lot of doubt about its actual value in the CAS mission. Thanks for your comments, and I hope you keep reading.

    March 5, 2011

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